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U.S. Geological Survey and the American Geological Institute Receive Valuable Seismic Data from Chevron Corp.
Valuable seismic data covering thousands of miles of offshore California and other parts of the U.S. west coast will be rescued from deteriorating magnetic tapes and made widely available to researchers around the world, thanks to collaboration among the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the American Geological Institute (AGI), and Chevron Corp. The unique agreement by which Chevron is donating the data to AGI for subsequent management and distribution by the USGS, originally signed on March 4 of this year at the USGS headquarters in Reston, VA, will enable access to the data by academic, government, and industrial researchers, marine geologists, and environmental engineers throughout the world.
In a ceremony at the USGS office in Menlo Park, CA, on May 16, Chevron Corp. donated to AGI and USGS the first of the data, collected from the 1960s to the 1980s for the purposes of oil and gas exploration and development. The USGS will house the data in a newly created repository called the National Archive of Marine Seismic Surveys. The ceremony was attended by Don Paul, Chevron Corp.'s vice president and chief technology officer; Bill Kempner, a geophysicist with Chevron Corp. in Bakersfield who negotiated the transfer of data; and Stephen Testa, president of AGI.
Chevron originally acquired the marine seismic data beginning in the 1960s by using high-energy acoustic signals, and although the commercial value of these data has diminished due to technological advances and offshore-development moratoria, their scientific value is still exceedingly high, said Jonathan Childs, a USGS researcher in coastal and marine geology.
"These data represent a national scientific heritage of inestimable value," said Childs, who noted that their value to current and future research efforts is compounded by the fact that increasing environmental concerns over the use of sound in the oceans because of possible effects on marine mammals make it highly unlikely that such data could ever again be acquired.
Such commercial data as these, Childs said, have rarely been available for research purposes, but they are highly relevant to studies concerning offshore geologic hazards (such as submarine faulting and landslides), offshore extension of aquifers and saltwater intrusion, basic geologic framework and tectonics, and more unconventional resources, such as gas hydrates.
Samuel Johnson, chief scientist for the USGS Western Coastal and Marine Geology Team, emphasized the value of this type of information. "USGS use of industry offshore seismic data has led to major advances in understanding active faults in Washington's densely populated Puget Lowland, for example. Documenting faults on the seismic lines triggered a surge of new work that completely changed earthquake-hazard assessments in the region and will lead to safer communities."
At the ceremony handing over the seismic information today, Don Paul said, "Over the decades, the magnetic tapes containing the seismic data have been stored in special warehouses, but they are rapidly approaching the point where they will no longer be viable. The data need to be transferred to a new digital recording medium to preserve this unique, irreplaceable asset; otherwise it will be permanently lost. We are extremely pleased that USGS will make these valuable data available."
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